MIT Technology Review on Ponoko: „Ponoko wants to give customers the tools to design and sell whatever they want.“

How Ponoko works (Source: Ponoko.com)Last week, Michael Gibson published a very nice analysis on Ponoko in the MIT Technology Review. I wrote about this company before, and the article has a nice summary of the recent developments of this user manufacturing start up.

Gibson writes:

„For most companies, product design and development is a long process of trial and error, involving, among other things, in-house designers, committees, timed product releases, and, ultimately, customer feedback. Until a product sells, or if it doesn’t sell, it takes up costly shelf space in either stores or warehouses.

But by letting individuals dream up, make, and then sell unique products on demand, Ponoko is attempting to eliminate the product-development wing. Ultimately, it hopes to eliminate the need for a centralized manufacturing plant as well, by recruiting a large enough community of digital manufacturers–people scattered around the world who have 3-D printers, CNC routers, and laser cutters. Moving the site of production as close as possible to the point of purchase will reduce the need for long-distance shipping.

„Just as personal computing went from the mainframe to the desktop, and the result was distributed desktop computing, we see the same trend occurring with digital manufacturing, as it moves from the warehouse to the desktop,“ says Derek Elley, the chief strategy officer for Ponoko.“

At the end of the article, Gibson quotes Phillip Torrone, a senior editor at Make magazine, who tried Ponoko to create a custom stand for his iPhone:

„They did everything that was required for me to get my product,“ Torrone says. „Their tutorials are fine; the templates were good examples. Pretty much, they did everything right. Now the question is, is there a demand? How much money does a company like this need to make to stay afloat?“

Ellery’s answer is that, eventually, Ponoko’s revenue will come entirely from digital services, not from manufacturing fees. The company intends to develop six revenue streams, including ad sales and commissions on design purchases.“

For more analysis, head to the full article.

Ponoko and related services, and the corresponding business model, are the theme of my upcoming webinar with Pure Inisghts. More information here!

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.